Reyna glanced down at the check one last time, and then exited the apartment with just her backpack over her shoulder.
Everett wasn’t working the night shift at the valet station. She was glad he wasn’t around to see her go, yet she was also sad that she wouldn’t get to say goodbye to him. But this was necessary even if it was the hardest thing she had ever done…even harder than deciding to work for Visage in the first place.
She took a cab to a bank and transferred the rest of the money to her brothers’ accounts. She didn’t want to have anything to do with the money anymore or the account Visage had set up for her to deposit it into. It would go to better use in their possession than in a Visage account.
Then she was on the road to the Warehouse District. It was surreal to think she was really going back. She had thought about it so often, but had resigned herself to the fact that she would never see her brothers again.
She paid the cab with her black card, swearing it was the last time she would use any of Beckham’s dirty money, and then hopped out of the car. She stared up at her brothers’ place. It was dark and ominous. No one was on the streets, and all the windows were shut up tight.
Home sweet home.
Three flights of stairs later, she was standing in front of their door. It was hanging slightly off the hinges, which she didn’t remember from when she had been living here. She grew suddenly anxious and knocked once on the door.
“Who is it?” Brian asked gruffly. “We don’t have anything. Try another place.”
“Brian?” she whispered. She hugged herself in the dark.
The door swung open. “Reyna?” Brian asked in shock. “Oh my God, is that you?”
Drew jumped up from the beat-up dingy sofa and rushed to her. He barreled into her, scooping her into a fierce hug. “What are you doing here? We thought we’d never see you again.”
It so perfectly mirrored her own thoughts earlier that she couldn’t help it, she burst into tears. They were both tears of joy at seeing them and grief over what she had left behind.
“It’s so good to see you guys. I’ve missed you so much. You have no idea,” she said through her sobs.
“I’m so glad you’re home,” Brian said, joining in on the hug. “Stop crying. Come inside.”
He urged them back into their apartment then closed and bolted the door. Another new addition. Her eyes scanned the room. It looked bare in the feeble light. Not just in comparison to Beckham’s immaculate penthouse, but to her memory of their apartment. The place was bare-bones, as if someone had moved, but left all the big furniture.
“Are you on…vacation or leave?” Brian asked curiously.
“No,” Reyna said. She shook her head, drawing herself out of her thoughts. She hiccuped and wiped her eyes. “I left. I couldn’t do it anymore.”
“Were they mistreating you?” Drew asked.
“Are you hurt?” Brian chimed in.
They both went into full-on big brother mode, and it almost made her smile.
“No.” How could she explain what had happened? It was a world they would never understand, and she honestly hoped they never tried. “I was never even bitten.”
Brian’s face darkened. She didn’t blame him for not wanting to hear about that.
“Then what were you doing this whole time?” Drew asked.
“You wouldn’t believe me even if I told you.”
Drew urged her to sit down. “Start from the beginning. No one has been…feeding off of you?”
Reyna shook her head and showed him her neck. Up close you could tell it was perfect. No marks at all. Not even the tiniest little ones. Not that that was the only place a person could get bitten, but it was the most common.
“What was I doing?” she repeated, laughing bitterly. “Going to balls in gorgeous dresses, and dance clubs, shopping in designer boutiques, learning photography, surfing the Internet. Absolutely nothing of any practical use.”
Brian and Drew exchanged a hesitant look.
“That sounds like a fairy tale,” Drew said.
“So why did you leave?” Brian asked. He took the other seat next to her. They both looked honestly curious. She could tell they were glad to see her, and she hoped that meant they wanted her to stay.
“It was a fairy tale at first,” she said cautiously, “but the dangers of that world are too much. I can’t describe it. You’ll just have to trust me.”
“We can talk about it when you’re ready,” Drew agreed easily.
Drew was always far more trusting than Brian, who was giving her a look as if he wanted to ask more questions, but he held his tongue for now.
“Thank you for sending the money, by the way.”
“Oh guys, I’m sorry,” she apologized immediately. “I’ll try to get a job to cover me being back.”